29 November 2008

“Customized Classic Children’s Books”

A firm called SharedBook is offering “customized classic children's books” through its website and retailing partners, most notably Tattered Cover in Denver. Folks can have a photo and short note printed on a page at the front of a book, and that copy will be shipped out to your beloved child. Who will love this so much more than if you, say, wrote the same note inside the book in your own handwriting.

According to Bookselling This Week, users can also add their chosen photo to the back cover, and on certain titles “users can customize entire sections of their book with personal memories and photos.” I just wasn’t able to find any of those titles or options.

The titles available now are mostly “classics”--i.e., in the public domain, or work-for-hire titles from Golden. But there are also three Beverly Cleary books, a Star Wars novel, and the recent Bad Dog, Marley! Another notable option is The Wonderful Wizard of Oz with Scott McKowen's illustrations, originally commissioned by Sterling.

I remember an early version of this "personalized book" concept from my childhood: full-color picture books with rudimentary stories into which a computer could drop the name of a birthday child and personal facts. "Did you know that Cindy shares her birthday with Ralph Bunche? Perhaps the two of them will celebrate together by skateboarding." The type was as good as computer-printer technology of the time allowed, which meant the result didn't look like a real book; it looked like a book someone had typed in.

Unfortunately, SharedBook doesn't go as far as I'd hoped when I first saw “customized classic children's books.” You can personalize only that one page. But you can't improve the final act of Huckleberry Finn, write yourself into Oz alongside Dorothy, or give a name to The Poky Little Puppy.

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